The goal of this article is to provide a life-cycle perspective on the treatment of major depressive episodes in later life. Our studies have suggested that older patients appear to benefit as much, though perhaps more slowly, than mid-life patients from acute combined treatment (nortriptyline + interpersonal psychotherapy) of major depression. Given also the apparently higher relapse rate among the elderly, however, continuation treatment needs to be vigorous and closely monitored. The occurrence of severe life events prior to the index episode and the co-existence of an anxiety disorder both appear to prolong treatment response times, while chronic medical burden per seneither compromises response rates nor prolongs time to response. Self-rated perception of health improves with remission of depression in the elderly. As in mid-life patients, both antidepressant medication (nortriptyline) and interpersonal psychotherapy appear to possess chronic efficacy with respect to the prevention of recurrent episodes and prolongation of wellness. Finally, treatment of depression in the elderly results in improved quality of life, especially in domains of well being and coping. Particular challenges in the treatment of elderly patients are noncompliance and the prevention of suicide. The latter is closely linked to feelings of hopelessness, and these may be persistent in some patients.
Psychiatric Quarterly – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 14, 2004
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